With few exceptions the news that will shape public discourse is subject to a de facto censorial process of powerful government and corporate elites beyond public accountability. It is here that Sigmund Freud’s notion of repression is especially helpful for assessing the decrepit state of media and public discourse in the United States.
In Freud’s view, one’s collective life experiences are registered in the subconscious, with those particularly disturbing or socially impermissible experiences being involuntarily suppressed, only later to emerge as neuroses. Whereas suppression is conscious and voluntary, repression takes place apart from individual volition.
With some opinion polls indicating at least half of the public distrusting the official account of September 11th, the foremost basis for the “war on terror”, no public event has been more repressed in public consciousness via the mass media than 9/11. The enduring usefulness of Freud’s theory is suggested in repeated manifestations of the repressed episode to haunt the public mind for which a surrogate reality has been crafted.
Peter Dale Scott describes occasions such as the assassination of President John Kennedy and September 11th as “deep events” because of their historical complexity and linkages with the many facets of “deep government”—the country’s military and intelligence communities and their undertakings.
The failure to adequately explain and acknowledge deep events and pursue their appropriate preventative remedies leads to continued deceptions where unpleasant experiences are contained and a new “reality” is imposed on the public mind. Together with the notion of repression, the term is also applicable for considering how instances of such historical import are dealt with in mass psychological terms, or, more specifically, by ostensibly independent alternative news media capable of recollecting the real.
For example, on May 1, 2011 President Obama announced the assassination of Osama bin Laden, the mythic mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, to an apparently ecstatic nation. Most conventional news outlets reported Obama’s announcement unquestioningly because it fit the scheme of their overall erroneous reportage on September 11th.
When alternative news media and bloggers almost immediately pointed to various contradictions in the story—the observations of eye witnesses to the raid, doctored photos of bin Laden’s alleged corpse, and international press reports that Bin Laden died many years prior—corporate news outlets acted swiftly to repress the well-reasoned critiques as “conspiracy theories” with a barrage of swiftly-produced editorials and op-eds.
Indeed, the announcement of bin Laden’s supposed demise came just four days after the Obama administration released the president’s purportedly authentic long-form birth certificate, an event at once uncannily amplified and repressed by the proclamation of bin Laden’s fate; where the vocabulary of repression produced another term, “deather”.
Again, the life of a lie is predicated on the success of subsequent deceit and the strength of the alternate experience created to stand in for the truth. Nowhere is the repression and revision of the memory of September 11th more acute than in progressive news media claiming to offer an alternative to corporate-controlled journalism. Some of these media themselves have multi-million dollar annual budgets and are especially open to manipulation by elite interests, often through self-censorship, via corporate underwriters and grants from powerful, tax-exempt foundations.
The Democracy Now! news hour is a case in point. A markedly persuasive program with a highly-educated and influential audience, Democracy Now! has substantial credibility, much of which was earned through its scrutiny of the George W. Bush administration and the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. It is through the use of this credibility that Goodman and Democracy Now! have consciously suppressed serious questions pertaining to September 11th, thereby playing an important role in dividing the 9/11 Truth movement from its antiwar counterpart and cultivating the latter, with its inevitable confused detachment from history.
The success of Democracy Now! in this regard lies in its adherents’ belief that it represents an authentically radical alternative to mainstream news—a claim that has some validity given the program’s willingness to address race and gender-related issues and its copious attention to acts of social protest.
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[Image Credit: Shiu Hung]
In terms of analysis, however, Democracy Now’s coverage is at best lacking and at worst outright misleading, bearing more of a resemblance to its mainstream equivalents than real alternative news outlets. This phenomenon has only increased despite the Obama administration’s intensification of many policies begun under its predecessor.
A working example is Democracy Now’s coverage of the so-called “Arab spring” over the past several months. While reports from alternative and international news outlets have pointed to the ties between the Libyan and Syrian “opposition” and the intelligence and military apparatuses of NATO’s leading countries—Britain and the United States—Democracy Now! has fallen into lockstep with corporate news outlets that have valorized such forces as fighting against the tyrannical Gaddafi and Assad regimes.
In the case of Syria there are conflicting reports on whether the Saad regime or death squads run out of Turkey by NATO are in fact responsible for the many deaths that have occurred over the past year. The Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya networks along with allegedly independent human rights groups have depicted the Saad regime as responsible for much of the Syrian bloodshed. Democracy Now! parrots and reinforces such reports without question, even though genuinely alternative media have scrutinized these claims.
In November 2011 the independent journalist Webster Tarpley journeyed to Syria to conduct a firsthand investigation of the Saad regime’s alleged brutality. His findings utterly diverge with those many western audiences had become used to. After interviewing Syrian officials and embarking on unescorted tours of Syria over a two week period, where he spoke to dozens of Syrian commoners, Tarpley reported that almost all of the violence was chiefly attributable to the same forces involved in the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya.
While innocent pedestrians have been subject to bombings and being targeted by snipers and death squads—recognized techniques of US forces from El Salvador to Iraq to provoke ethnic division and civil war—the Syrians Tarpley spoke to held the Saad regime in high regard and wanted an increased Syrian army presence to prevent such attacks.
Tarpley broadcast from Syria on his own weekly World Crisis Radio program and proceeded to report his findings on alternative outlets, including Russia Today, Iran’s Press TV, Alex Jones, and Jeff Rense. Despite the notoriety Tarpley was absent from Democracy Now! and like avenues, in all probability not just because of his unorthodox conclusions on the “Arab spring”, but also an intellectual honesty that steered him toward, among other endeavors, a rigorous and unadorned interrogation of September 11th, thus placing him beyond the pale of the Left’s permissible discussion and dissent.
The repression and revised imposition of September 11th and the attendant “war on terror” on the public mind have important implications not only for the integrity of public discourse, but also for the collective sanity of western culture and civilization. As crafted by dominant news media 9/11 has become the cracked lens through which we view and conceive of our own history, identity, and purpose.
Each act of subverting or evading factual accounts of actually existing events manifests itself as a small fissure in the broader edifice of truth and rationality. So does it also contribute to furthering the designs of broader forces seeking to build a once seemingly pretend brave new world.
Professor James F. Tracy is an Associate Professor of Media Studies at Florida Atlantic University. James Tracy’s work on media history, politics and culture has appeared in a wide variety of academic journals, edited volumes, and alternative news and opinion outlets. James is editor of Union for Democratic Communication’s Journal Democratic Communiqué and a contributor to Project Censored’s forthcoming publication Censored 2013: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2011-2012. Additional writings and information are accessible at memoryholeblog.com.